"I miss his guidance," Tiger said in one of his March TV interviews, "wish I could have had his guidance through all this to have him help straighten me up. I know he would've done it."
Of course Earl himself was never the perfect husband. His first marriage ended in divorce, and he married Tiger's future mother, Kultida, in 1969. Ultimately that marriage, too, fractured, with Earl and Tida living separate lives in separate homes. Yet Earl never backed off his criticism of other parents, and he was widely lauded as a wonderful dad.
"I knew my actions were wrong," Woods said during his stilted, 13-minute February confessional. "But I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply."
Normal rules rarely did. After all, Woods earned more than $40 million in endorsements before his first tournament as a pro; TV ratings doubled when he played. By age 21 he had the game's whip hand, and he wielded it ever more forcefully. Why not? Hadn't he bullied his competitors into loving second place? Hadn't he even, in a sense, beaten golf itself? No one in history had caused so many courses, even Augusta National, to be toughened to provide more of a challenge. No one—not even his hero, Nicklaus—was always in contention; no one took advantage of his big-dog aura more.
"He arrives on Tour and says, 'I want a dozen police guards with me'—right from Day One," says Nick Faldo, winner of six majors. "Jack, Arnold, Gary [Player], [Lee] Trevino never had this; maybe one copper would walk with them for fun. Tiger? Whether it was intentional? I believe it partly was, simply to make everybody believe he's something different, something special."
It's no wonder Woods thought he could become a huge celebrity without paying the usual price. Three years ago the National Enquirer reportedly killed an article about Tiger's philandering in return for his cooperation on a rare cover story for its sister publication Men's Fitness (the Enquirer denies this), and a just released piece in Vanity Fair asserts that Woods's agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG, quietly spearheaded that effort to cover it up. Steinberg last week declined to comment on the charge, but if true it helps explain the strategy of silence by Woods's public-relations team after the crash. Quiet damage control worked once. Why change course now?
On the night of the crash, as the hospital fended off all manner of media, including Al Jazeera, Steinberg and Woods's spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, remained silent. Woods checked out by 11 a.m., even as reports remained focused on his reportedly "serious condition," and deep into the afternoon, in the vacuum left by Woods's camp, hospital officials and the mayor and police chief of Windermere (pop. 2,567) provided the only official response. A three-sentence statement appeared on Woods's website 13 hours after the crash, the first hint that the Tiger machine would be operating in standard mode. No one should expect anything but the bare minimum.
"This was a wound that was festering—growing and growing," says Windermere mayor Gary Bruhn. "Here's a man with some of the greatest spin doctors, p.r. people: Why would you let this thing grow? Why didn't the agent come out at nine o'clock in the morning and say, 'Mr. Woods was involved in a minor traffic accident coming out of his driveway, he accidently hit a tree and a hydrant, and he's got a cut lip but doing fine: end of story'"
Maybe because it wasn't.
When asked during his March TV interviews what happened on the night of the crash, Woods didn't hesitate. "It's all in the police report," he said. It's a clever dodge: The FHP's 34-page report, complete with crash diagrams and interview notes, is about as illuminating as a bucket of sludge. Riddled with inconsistencies, it says nothing about the jurisdictional snafus and unpursued leads. Nor does it mention how the presence of a rich and famous man like Tiger Woods, even semiconscious, could intimidate law enforcement officers.